Nonprofit Volunteers – Minimizing the Risks

Minimizing legal exposure is important because volunteers’ acts are generally imputed to the nonprofit organization. Specific, written volunteer policies and procedures are critical. Important components of a good volunteer program include clear and forward-thinking volunteer policies, thorough volunteer applications, screening, and management.

Self-Policing Abuse Cases Can Lead to Catastrophic Failure by Kimberly Witherspoon

Self policing allows serious problems to fall through the cracks. The most significant failure of self-policing seems to be a knee-jerk desire to protect the organization rather than the purported victim. This results in a failure to report allegations of abuse to the authorities, and instead be willfully blind to crimes committed against children. Institutional behaviors of denial, irresponsibility, cover-ups and possible criminal behavior seem to thrive in a self-policing organization. Jerry Sandusky’s case is a clear example of this willful blindness. Tolerating or ignoring abuse to children under the care of charitable organizations that are supposed to nurture and protect them undermines the noble purpose of such entities and thus weakens the organization.

Van Dusen v. Commissioner: A Win for Nonprofit Volunteers

The Court reasoned that the most important consideration in determining deductibility of unreimbursed expenses is whether or not the volunteer work causes or necessitates the expense. If the expense is incurred solely in connection with one’s duties as a volunteer, such as buying food for a foster pet, the expense is deductible. If, however, the expense is one that would have been incurred regardless of one’s duties as a volunteer, such as repairs or insurance for a car that is used for personal transportation as well as transportation related to volunteer duties, the expense will be considered to have been incurred regardless of any volunteer service, thus it is not a deductible expense.